APOPO’s tuberculosis research agenda: achievements, challenges and prospects
This article describes Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling (APOPO) recent use of specially trained African giant pouched rats as detectors of pulmonary tuberculosis in people living in Tanzania. It summarizes the achievements and challenges encountered over the years and outlines future prospects. Since 2008, second-line screening by the rats has identified more than 2000 tuberculosis-positive patients who were missed by microscopy at Direct Observation of Treatment – Short Course centres in Tanzania. Moreover, data that are reviewed herein have been collected with respect to the rats’ sensitivity and specificity in detecting tuberculosis. Findings strongly suggest that scent-detecting rats offer a quick and practical tool for detecting pulmonary tuberculosis and within the year APOPO’s tuberculosis-detection project will be extended to Mozambique. As part of its local capacity building effort, APOPO hires and trains Tanzanians to play many important roles in its TB detection project and provides research and training opportunities for Tanzanian students.